English Language and Literature MPhil/PhD

London, Bloomsbury

One of the highest-ranking English departments in the UK, UCL English provides excellent opportunities for PhD students to study in the heart of literary London, with access to vast quantities of resources and research materials, and a high number of academic staff working on a diverse range of specialist research topics.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2023/24)
Overseas tuition fees (2023/24)
3 calendar years
5 calendar years
Programme starts
September 2023
Applications accepted
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Entry requirements

An undergraduate degree in English Literature or a related subject is a pre-requisite for this programme, and a UK Master's degree in a relevant discipline, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard will normally be required.

Research degree students are expected to start in September, but may request to start in January if there are exceptional reasons to do so. Applicants who wish to be considered for AHRC/ LAHP funding must have submitted a complete application by 6 January 2023.

The English language level for this programme is: Level 2

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level. International Preparation Courses

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

Equivalent qualifications

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

With access to vast collections of research materials and supervision from world-leading experts in a wide range of literary periods and topics, UCL provides an exceptionally strong environment in which to study for an English PhD. UCL English Department has specialists in every period of English and American literature, as well as English language, with an outstanding record of internationally recognised scholarship and publications. A PhD in English at UCL will allow you to pursue original research and make a significant contribution to your field. 

Students accepted for admission are given a principal supervisor with whom they will work closely during the course of the degree. A subsidiary supervisor is also appointed to provide additional advice. Great importance is attached to matching student and supervisor, and ensuring that students' progress is well monitored. Students meet either one or other supervisor approximately ten times during the academic year.

Graduate students initially register for the MPhil degree, but usually upgrade to full PhD student status in the second year, if progress is satisfactory. (The English Department does not offer a standalone research Master's programme, nor is it possible to be admitted as a PhD student directly.) In addition to the upgrade review in the second year, progress is also reviewed at the end of each year. Students who are making good progress will usually be offered opportunities to gain teaching experience from the second year onwards.

There are normally about 45 students undertaking research degrees in the department. They form a diverse, friendly, and vibrant intellectual community. There is a full programme of departmental research seminars at which papers are given by invited speakers and graduate students, and students also have access to a wide range of seminars and research events across UCL and the University of London. Research skills training is provided both within and beyond the department.

PhD students at UCL have access to an incomparable range of libraries and libraries, including the British Library and Senate House Library (the library of the University of London). They can also apply to spend a period as a visiting scholar at Yale as part of the UCL-Yale Collaborative Partnership.

Who this course is for

This programme is suitable for applicants with a strong interest or background in a wide range of literary periods or in English Linguistics, and who want to do complete research alongside specialists in literature in English and linguistics of the English language. The programme is suitable for both recent Masters graduates as well as early or mid-career professionals who have achieved the stated entry requirements.

What this course will give you

As one of the most respected academic institutions in the world, UCL is an excellent place to study for a PhD in English. Our PhD students benefit from specialist supervision by world-leading researchers as well as access to the outstanding range of research resources available to them in London.

The clear structure of the PhD programme, with regular progress reviews, supports successful completion, while the training courses offered by the department and UCL enable the development of both specific research skills and the professional skills needed for an academic career.

The relatively small department also offers many opportunities for formal and informal intellectual exchanges and collaborations, supported by our programme of research seminars. Many of our students also make the most of UCL’s partnership with Yale to spend a period of study there.

PhD students in English at UCL acquire advanced skills of the highest calibre as researchers, writers, and presenters of their work. They will also usually gain experience of teaching (both tutorials and seminars).

The foundation of your career

The English Department is proud of its PhD alumni and values its ongoing relationship with them. We welcome alumni to departmental events, and encourage them to keep in touch with us at english@ucl.ac.uk. For more information on UCL’s wider alumni community, please click here.


Our PhD graduates have an excellent record of securing employment in institutions of higher education and have progressed to academic positions here at UCL, at Oxford and Cambridge, in the wider University of London, at other universities across the UK, and in international destinations including the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. They are also well placed to pursue careers outside academia, as the skills in research, analysis, writing, and communication obtained during the PhD transfer easily to high-level work in many sectors.


Networking both among students and with academic staff and visiting speakers is facilitated by our lively programme of departmental research seminars, as well as our various reading groups and events. Beyond the department, extensive opportunities to meet fellow specialists and exchange knowledge and ideas are offered by the events programmes of the UCL Institute for Advanced Studies, the University of London Institute of English Studies, and numerous other research institutions near UCL and across London.

Teaching and learning

Graduate students initially register for the MPhil degree, but upgrade to full PhD student status at the start of the second year, if progress is satisfactory.

In addition to the upgrade review at the start of the second year, progress is also reviewed at the end of the first year, in the first-year review, where the student submits a portfolio to their supervisory team, and at the Higher Degrees Sub Committee (HDSC) in their third year, where a submitted portfolio is assessed by a panel of senior academics in the department. A successful performance at the HDSC normally means the student will achieve Completing Research Student (CRS) status. Students who are making good progress will usually be offered opportunities to gain teaching experience from the second year onwards.

Research areas and structure

We offer expertise in a wide range of topics within the field of English literature and language. Some areas in which the department would particularly welcome applications are:

  • Old and Middle English literature and manuscript studies
  • Relations between English and insular and continental French writings from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries
  • Post-medieval bibliography and palaeography
  • History of the book, textual and editorial theory and practice in all periods
  • Shakespeare studies, including Shakespeare’s London
  • The literature of the Elizabethan court
  • Women writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
  • Classicism in seventeenth and eighteenth-century literary culture
  • Literature and science in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
  • Revolutionary Writings in the Romantic period
  • Homosexuality and literary history
  • Literature and technology in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century literature
  • Victorian and Edwardian writings on sexuality and adolescence
  • Modernism
  • Contemporary poetry
  • Postmodern fiction
  • London in literature/urban literature
  • English grammar
  • English language
  • The history of the English language
  • Corpus linguistics

You can read about our staff research interests here.

Research environment

UCL English has, throughout its history, been a pioneer in the study of English language and English literature, from Old English to contemporary texts. The department comprises a dynamic community of scholars with a breadth of expertise across literary periods and topics, as well as in language and linguistics. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021) UCL was 6th in the UK with 96% of their submission graded as 3*/4*.The comparatively small size of the department creates a friendly, inclusive research environment, with close contact between staff and students and many opportunities for intellectual exchange and collaboration.

Members of the English department have expertise in a wide range of approaches to English literature and language. Many of our literary research activities are organised around the key themes of The City, Editions, and Intercultural Exchanges, while our research in English Language is co-ordinated by the renowned Survey of English Usage. The department hosts regular research seminars at which PhD students, members of staff, and visiting speakers present their work; these include a themed strand of seminars on Race, Power, and Poetics. There are also many more seminars, reading groups and research events, both within the department, at the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies, and at the University of London’s Institute of English Studies. The department’s PhD students organise an annual Graduate Conference, where UCL speakers are joined by others from across the UK and beyond to share their research. They also publish Moveable Type, a peer-reviewed journal of academic articles, poetry and prose fiction.

UCL Library has outstanding physical and digital collections for literary research, as well as specialist materials in its excellent Special Collections department. Among these are the George Orwell Archive; Little Magazines; the Routledge and Kegan Paul Archives (publishing history); the Brougham Papers and papers of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (19th-century liberalism); and the Chadwick Papers (19th-century sanitary reform). UCL Library also has superb holdings in London history. We enjoy unrivalled proximity to the British Library, with its vast collections, and Senate House Library (the library of the University of London), as well as other rich research resources including the Institute of Historical Research, the Warburg Institute, and the Wellcome Collection.

The period of registration for the MPhil/PhD degree programme is 3 years for full-time study (5 years for part-time). You are required to register initially for the MPhil degree with the expectation of transfer to PhD after successful completion of an upgrade review 9-18 months after initial registration.

Throughout your period of registration, you will meet regularly with your supervisory team, receiving feedback on work-in-progress. Regular completion of an online research log will help you and your supervisors to assess your specific training needs. The English Department provides a course in PhD Skills Training; many further training opportunities are also offered by the UCL Doctoral Skills Development Programme and LAHP (the London Arts and Humanities Partnership).

To ensure timely and successful completion of the thesis, the English Department formally reviews each student’s progress at regular intervals (usually the end of each year) by requiring submission of a dossier of work which is discussed in an interview. The most important of these reviews falls during your second year (9-18 months from registration) and will assess your readiness to transfer from MPhil to full PhD student status.

Upon successful completion of your approved period of registration, you may apply for a further period of 1 year (2 years for part-time) as a Completing Research Student (CRS) to prepare your thesis for submission. The final degree assessment takes the form of an oral examination based on the thesis and conducted by two examiners, usually one internal and one external.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble accessable.co.uk. Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support & Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2023/24) £5,860 £2,930
Tuition fees (2023/24) £26,200 £13,100

The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Where the programme is offered on a flexible/modular basis, fees are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website: ucl.ac.uk/students/fees.

Additional costs

Additional costs may include expenses such as books, stationery, printing or photocopying, and conference registration fees.

The Department has some funds which can be applied for, to help offset the cost of travel to conferences or archives in the UK or overseas.

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Funding your studies

AHRC grants are available for UK/EU English PhD applicants who are applying to start a research degree in 2023. Applications are made directly to the London Arts and Humanities Partnership, who administer the awarding of AHRC funding at UCL. AHRC funding covers all fees, as well as providing a stipend for living expenses, for three years. If you have any questions about the application process please contact english@ucl.ac.uk.

UCL's Research Excellence Scholarships are available for UK/EU/Overseas applicants starting in 2023 and provides full funding including a stipend for living allowance for the length of the programme.

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.

Next steps

We recommend that applicants look at our list of staff on the UCL English website before submitting an application. Whilst potential supervisors are unable to accept a PhD student without a formal application form, we attach great importance to the match between supervisors and students, so please check that we have a member of teaching staff who could potentially supervise your project before applying.

Applicants who are interested in applying for AHRC funding via the London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP) must submit completed applications (including references) by 6 January 2023 (you will also need to complete a LAHP application for: see www.lahp.ac.uk for details).

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

Choose your programme

Please read the Application Guidance before proceeding with your application.

Year of entry: 2023-2024

Year of entry: 2022-2023

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